Female Artists Contemplate What it Would Be Like to Be a Man

This week, I thought it would be interesting to look at songs where women ponder what it would be like to flip roles and have the entitlements of a man.

Ciara ““ “Like a Boy”

Definitely a favorite of mine on this list. While Ciara’s lyrics and delivery come across as both angry and callous, the video flashes between her in a feminine role with a man and dancing in sexy but boyish clothes. It even goes as far to demonstrate her male and female sides as she dances with herself, imitating Michael Jackson.

Mindy McCready ““ “Guys Do It All The Time”

You tend to forget what her message is exactly by all her smiling and flirting with the camera in this more upbeat, playful song, which seems to me sort of conflicting when performing about a song about entitlement. I don’t think a song has to be angry or dark to convey entitlement, but it takes away from the message of the song when she’s dancing around without pants on.

Beyoncé ““ “If I Were a Boy”

While I don’t think the song is particularly anything special, in the video Beyoncé portrays a woman in what is traditionally considered to be the male role in a relationship. She works as a cop–a strong, protective type–and generally treats her boyfriend like dirt by flirting with her partner and ignoring his calls. She also brings up the idea some people have that cheating doesn’t happen until it becomes physical, in spite of the emotional aspects.

Jessie J – “Do it Like a Dude”

There are a lot of unfortunate parts about this song in both its execution and the video. Some of the lyrics are honestly pretty similar to Ciara’s “Like a Boy,” but Jessie J does not have the same eloquence as Ciara does. The song doesn’t even necessarily convince you to be empathetic to questioning the idea of why it’s more acceptable for men to do certain things–it just comes off as a woman saying random lines about stereotypical male behavior. Apparently Jessie J wrote this song in fifteen minutes.


10 replies on “Female Artists Contemplate What it Would Be Like to Be a Man”

Besides Dar Williams’s “When I was a Boy,” “If You Were the Woman, and I Was the Man” by the Cowboy Junkies also popped into my head.

This is maybe only tangentially related, but awhile ago I was listening to a cover of “Love Minus Zero” that did switch the genders (so, a female singer–Eliza Gilykson–refering to a male lover) and it’s one of the most interesting songs I’ve ever heard switched that way, just because the values and descriptions of the lover, IMO, take on a totally different, almost radical aspect when ascribed to a male from a female lover, and it really made me hear it in a new way.

Oh, god, I hadn’t thought about that Dar Williams song in ages. Since high school, probably (and that was a LOOOONG time ago). I LOVED Dar Williams, and saw her live a bunch of times, but “When I Was a Boy” was always my favorite song of hers, because it was me. It was my life. Anyone who’s never heard it give it a listen.

On an unrelated note, I love Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” because it properly uses the subjunctive, which is always a pleasant surprise. Also, because my life’s goal is to be a backup dancer for Beyonce. :)

Have you heard Tori Amos’s Strange Little Girls CD? It’s a collection of covers of songs originally done by men or male bands, and I find her interpretations fascinating. (I also just love Tori Amos, so I’m quite possibly biased.) She created personae for each song, and some of them are just chilling, like her cover of Eminem’s “97 Bonnie and Clyde.”

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